Mexico Installs Federal Forces in Operation to Secure Veracruz

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The Mexican government has announced a plan to send additional federal police and military troops to the Gulf state of Veracruz under a unified command, in an attempt to combat escalating drug-related violence.

The government plan, given the name Operation Safe Veracruz (Operacion Veracruz Seguro) was announced Tuesday by Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake, and state Governor Javier Duarte. Blake stated that federal forces deployed throughout the state will now operate “under a single federal command.”

Blake did not specify the number of police and military to be sent to Veracruz, but the deployment has drawn comparisons with a similar deployment of state forces in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas in late 2010, where some 4,000 soldiers and federal police were assigned to contain the Zetas gang and the rival Gulf Cartel.

Veracruz currently has approximately 23,000 state and local police but their effectiveness has been called into question, with a number of officers having been accused of being on the payroll of the Zetas.

In late September, 32 prisoners, believed to be members of the Zetas, escaped from three prisons in Veracruz, highlighting the fragile security situation in the state.

However, the emergence of a new gang which has declared war on the Zetas has raised further concern. The day following the prison escape 35 bodies were discovered dumped on a street of state capital. According to authorities all were Zeta members. A sign left with the bodies read, “This will happen to all those Zetas—- who remain in Veracruz.”

After the appearance of the 35 bodies, a group of masked men calling themselves the “Mata Zetas,” or Zeta Killers, released a video stating their intention to rid the country of the Zetas, and calling on Veracruz residents to stop paying extortion money to that group.

In response to the actions of the Mata Zetas, Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake stated that only the state had the authority to act against criminal groups. “Those who seek justice by their own hand, or invade the state in its intransferable duties, become criminals, and the government will apply to them the full force of the law,” said Blake.

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